The Carol Singers
By Jeanette Williams
‘On the count of three: one … two … three … “The Holly and The Ivy”.’ Noel started the singing a split second before the others felt comfortable enough to join in. He’d thrown the motley group together from work colleagues and friends from the pub. They knew the drill. ‘Cheesy smiles and enthusiasm’ was the order for the evening. It was the perfect cover. This house was their fourteenth. At the last one they had all been given generous mugs of mulled wine. That and a hip flask had kept Noel’s bones warm. He’d planned the visit to this particular house with military precision. Doing the groundwork under cover of darkness two hours earlier had been vital. He had known the owner rarely went out and wouldn’t suspect a thing.
The group was large enough for him to slip to the back and sneak away easily. The carol sheets he’d given them meant he had about seven minutes to do what he had to do. Out of sight he pulled on his balaclava.
The house, a terrace, had a slither of garden front and rear. An alleyway ran down the left and the dark Staffordshire brick saw little day-light. A wooden gate let him into a yard where he tip-toed up steps and into a small kitchen. The group now sang, ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful.’ Four minutes left. Noel dropped to his belly and crawled into the front room, not wanting to be seen from any window. The carpet was highly patterned, nylon and a bit whiffy. A dog snored on, a fetching pink from the electric bar heater. Noel struggled with plugs and pulled.
The carol singers faltered and a voice said, ‘Oh beautiful!’ Another: ‘How pretty!’ A buzz, a flash, a bang stopped the lovely comments and the singers gasped as the house fizzled into darkness. Someone commanded, ‘Stay there! I’ve got a torch! It’s okay don’t move, let’s see if we can get your lights sorted. Where’s your fuse-box Mrs … er..?’ Bob took control.
‘Hughes, but you can call me Betty. It’s here in the passage.’
‘Okay Betty, that’s grand. Let’s get you seated inside. Watch your feet. Michael, can you come here, shine your head-torch for me?’
‘Right you are Bob!’ Michael stepped in glad to be of assistance. Betty shuffled into her front room and screamed as her feet came into contact with something.
The lights flickered and came on long enough to see her deaf dog still snoozing and a body sprawled across her floor, an arm extended towards a socket. The body stirred.
‘Don’t you bloody move!’ Bob yelled and rammed his size ten on the man’s back, ‘Someone dial 999!’
‘It’s me. Gerroff! Me! Noel!’
‘Noel? Noel?’ Betty slapped Bob’s leg away and shrieked, ‘What are you doing down there?’
Bob rubbed his leg where he’d been smacked by Betty. He wasn’t the only one who was confused. The lights stayed on. Michael had done the trick.
Noel rolled over unsure if it was alcohol or shock but he was decidedly groggy. The rest of the carol singers had filtered in to the tiny room and vied to see what the commotion was.
Noel volunteered: ‘I only wanted to make the front of the house festive for you mum. It was meant to be a surprise – the lights coming on as the carollers sang.’
Bob took charge and said, ‘Last verse guys.’ And the house was filled with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’.
Copyright © Jeanette Williams 2015